The Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag is a familiar sight to many Americans, but its significance is increasingly lost as the years pass by. But as the years go by since POW/MIA advocates successfully fought to bring the black flags into prominence, some Americans have forgotten their significance over the years.

They’re the soldiers who never returned from war, their whereabouts unknown or their remains never recovered. But, as the familiar black flag reminds Americans, “You are not forgotten.”

The Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag is a familiar sight to many Americans, but its significance is increasingly lost as the years pass by.

But as the years go by since POW/MIA advocates successfully fought to bring the black flags into prominence, some Americans have forgotten their significance over the years. Many young people may have no idea what the flags represent.

The flags, and POW/MIA ceremonies, serve as a reminder of the nation’s obligation to reunite the prisoners or their remains with their families. In fact, the U.S. government still devotes a great deal of time and resources in such recovery efforts.

Through September, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command — known as JPAC — is scheduled to deploy more than 85 investigation and recovery teams on 30 missions to 11 different countries; 60 of them to support Vietnam War POW/MIA operations.

But as the years pass by and the memories fade, so too, has the will of some to fund and support such recovery actions.

“Notice you go into various parades and towns, and the POW/MIA flags are becoming less and less visible,” said Maureen Dunn, was the featured speaker at a recent POW/MIA ceremony in Taunton, Mass. Dunn told the story of her husband, Navy Commander Joseph P. Dunn.

Cmdr. Dunn was in a plane that was shot down over the northeast coast of Hainan Island, China, in 1968. An immediate mission to recover him was abandoned.

“He was actually heard on the beeper,” Maureen Dunn said. “There was a board sent to go closer to him and pick him up, then ordered back.”

She has continued as a strong advocate for POW/MIA for the past 44 years, helping to create the POW/MIA flag back in the early 1970s as part of the National League of Families.

Cmdr. Dunn is one of 39 Massachusetts service members who have not been returned from Vietnam. Still, Massachusetts is more fortunate than other states in that regard, according to Dunn, because the commonwealth has the highest per-capita rate of returns of POW/MIAs of any state in the country.

“Why is that? Because of this. Because people continue to care,” she said. “And … it’s a law that we won, that there is to be a POW flag in at least one municipal building in every city and town in the commonwealth. And the Defense Department did have a riling that all color guards were to carry a POW flag.”

To this day, 1,677 Vietnam War POW/MIAs from across America remain unaccounted for. There were 2,500 when recovery efforts started.

As Massachusetts Rep. Shaunna O’Connell said at the ceremony, “We have a solemn duty to our veterans and our current military members to never give up, to never forget, and to bring them all home no matter how long it takes, for they still wait.”

These service members fought for us. As a nation, we must continue to fight for their return.

“If you don’t want to fight for the POW/MIAs, then you’re abandoning your soldiers, people who are fighting for your country. You can’t do that,” said Dennis Proulx, vice president of the Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association, which organizes the annual ceremony.

Meanwhile, POW/MIA Day is recognized on the third Friday of September by resolution of Congress. Communities throughout the country hold annual remembrances on that day. It is a day of remembrance and hope for the return of American prisoners of war and those still missing in action.

The POW/MIA ceremonies are also held to make public the efforts to return the remains of the nation’s fallen servicemen and women missing of not only Vietnam but also World War II and the Korean war.

“This POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony means a lot to me,” said Vietnam Veterans of American member Donald Pearce Sr. of Taunton. “There are people from my hometown who are still missing.”

The POW/MIA ceremony served as a reminder that their return is a responsibility that must continue.